The new year means a new start, both to the calendar, which slips back to January, and to our aspirations and hopes, which are buoyed by festive memories and optimistic resolutions. We tend to start the year intending to be better people, but often get caught up in the reality of being the person we are before the changes can take effect.
Starting any kind of journey is a combination of resolve and uncertainty, sometimes with a map. The resolve is the determination to be somewhere else, to achieve a goal, the uncertainty is about which route to take or what the challenges may be along the way, or maybe about our confidence in our ability to navigate our way there. Having a map is not enough: we need to be able to read it.
Whether we are engaged in a formal learning programme or just learning as we go, the skills to read the map are the same: the ability to recognise our own strengths and weaknesses, the ability to compartmentalise and manage our time, but also our emotional energy and resources, and our ability to open ourselves up to change. Learning is about change, in ourselves or in others, so we need to be willing to accept this.
When buying a pair of walking boots, i look for two things: a stiff sole to give you some spring and sturdy leather on the front to kick the odd stone out of the way without breaking a toe. We need much the same type of boot for learning: an attitude pliable enough to move in new directions, but sturdy enough to question and kick away distractions.
Navigation is largely about reading the landscape, which comes with experience. As we live, we learn and we learn to learn better. Understanding how we respond to new challenges, how we engage with new ideas, how we incorporate these into our view of the world and how we manage our time to do this, these are all things that improve over time. In our own learning, or in the ways that we influence the learning of others, we should recognise that the challenges are very much the same, whatever the subject to hand.
So as we start the new year, it’s worth looking around and seeing what surrounds us. What is the same as it was last January, what has changed? Have we progressed along the journey, or are we standing still, doing the things we did last year? Has our resolution to be a better person delivered over the last year or did is slip and fade as February drenched us with it’s familiar rain? Learning is about change, but we need the right boots, the right map and the drive to make progress.